Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is that Saddam's ghost we hear?

By Don Klein

Could it be the ghost of Saddam Hussein we are hearing in the current American affliction for the overstated and exaggerated political statement? An attempt to say what is not true in such ominous words that any casual listener might possibly believe it.

Remember before President George H.W. Bush launched “Desert Storm” in 1991, the Iraqi dictator warned the world that he would unleash “the mother of all wars” if attacked by the West. It was an Arab bluff, just another occasion of bully bluster, because when American troops eventually rolled into Iraqi territory, Saddam’s army collapsed within days.

The army which was to provide Hussein’s mother of all wars turned into nothing more than an outlandish third cousin, twice removed, who no one in the family ever believed. That army was so shattered one element surrendered to a passing group of war correspondents riding in a military vehicle.

The Saddam prediction was his brainless effort to make Iraq seem more powerful than it was.

Fast forward to today’s demonstrators – Tea Party and others – who scream at the top of their lungs about “taking back their country,” swearing they will not let “big government” come and take their precious Second Amendment rights from them. What are these people talking about? Where are they getting this stuff?

The government has made no attempt to remove the protesters of their cherished weaponry. In fact, one fully armed group demonstrated in a federal park in Virginia where carrying guns is allowed because President Obama signed into law their right to do so months ago. What are they complaining about?

Could it be the Saddam Hussein affect? They are exaggerating and overstating their complaint with the current administration because it makes them appear to be a victim when they are not. One demonstrator interviewed by Chris Matthews on the MSNBC show “Hardball” was irate because he was not allowed to carry a pistol to defend himself while standing on the grounds of the Washington Monument where guns are banned. No one has been attacked on those park lands in memory. Why the fear?

These are clearly bizarre actors – Saddam Hussein and park demonstrators. But now these exaggerators are infiltrating the ranks of what we normally think of as responsible political sources. The GOP talks about the country turning to socialism with a health bill that opened a market of 33 million new clients for the private insurance industry. Does that sound like socialism?

Or is it the ghost of Saddam speaking again, this time on the new subject of health care. The Republicans say they will repeal it because it is unconstitutional, but if it is unconstitutional they will not have to repeal it. The Supreme Court will erase it from the books. What they really mean is they will repeal it because they don’t like it.

Now comes Ed Koch, former mayor of New York, taking up the Israeli side in the current dispute with Washington. As I see it the clash is between Obama’s view of the Middle East and Benjamin Netanyahu’s. It largely revolves around the continued building of Jewish settlements in disputed territory which leads to one result – a failure to advance a glimmer of hope for peace for the area.

It is more than a difference of opinion between two friendly nations. It is a case of the client nation, Israel, trying to wag the tail of the US, its steady sponsor for more than sixty years. Obama wishes a halt in the settlements and Netanyahu wants the settlements to continue and seems to delight in sticking it to the US on every occasion.

The latest fissure started when Vice President Joe Biden landed in Israel for peace talks only to be greeted by an announcement of expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu knew exactly what he was doing. He was poking his thumb in Uncle Sam’s eye. Obama’s response was to give the Israeli head the cold shoulder when he arrived in Washington weeks later.

So what does Koch do. In an article published in the Jewish World Review he never refers to the diplomatic affront by Israel but only talks in highly emotional terms about the survival of the tiny Middle East democracy. He recalls the courageous story of Masada Jews who held off Roman Legions almost two millennia ago. Then he talks about the atrocities inflicted on Jews through the ages. None of this is in dispute or relevant to the issue of settlements.

To Koch’s disfavor he did not try to explain how Netanyahu’s recklessness in insulting the United States upon an official visit by the vice president. Even in the worst days of the Cold War, the USSR never acted that discourteously during visits of officials from this country.

Natanhayu is arrogant and deserves the silent treatment he is getting. US foreign policy should be operated in the best interests of the US, not any other country. Too long Israeli supporters like Koch have reveled in the belief that US Middle East policy should be formulated by the Israeli foreign office. Obama is right to be irritated.

But what does he get from Koch? -- Claims that Obama made outrageous verbal attacks on Israel, which he never did.

“I weep today because my president, Barack Obama, in a few weeks has changed the relationship between the US and Israel from that of closest of allies to one in which there is an absence of trust on both sides,” Koch moaned.

I’m surprised Koch didn’t elevate the rift to “the mother of all disputes.” Oh no, Saddam Hussein already used that approach and it didn’t work.

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